(From left to right) Evander Preston with Cigar City’s Justin Clark, Josh Brengle, and Ryan Stick at his studio in Pass-A-Grille.
It was during an interview with Cigar City's Joey Redner that I inquired about the silver beer tab necklace he wears. You'll see them on other CCB employees too.
“That's Evander Preston," he told me then. "You've gotta meet Evander Preston."
Redner collaborated with Preston, part longtime local bohemian part craftsman part spirit guide, on a brown ale called Evander Ale a couple of years ago. The 22-ounce bomber featured one of Preston’s wild Basquiat and Jazz inspired paintings.
It wasn’t Preston’s first foray into beer, having released his own Evander Beer years before the brewery boom really hit Tampa Bay.
Redner describes him to me as a “true renaissance man.” Everyone who meets Preston can confirm this fact. From his handcrafted (and fully functioning) gold miniature train to to the African artifact museum housed upstairs from the jewelry store, there’s just not another like him.
Which is probably why Cigar City is teaming up with Preston again. Which is what brings me to the Pass-A-Grille work space and store on a beautiful Friday morning.
Cigar City’s vice president Justin Clark meets me along with the brewers Nick Streeter, Josh Brengle, and Ryan Stick.
Meeting Evander Preston is a pilgrimage, an experience; it’s kind of like finding Yoda’s swampy lair. If Yoda was 6-foot-3 and lived on the beach and drank beer and made art.
Today is a fact-finding mission and an initiation. Preston’s presence and aesthetic will be a guiding light not just for the beer, but also for the brewers meeting him for the first time. He tells them about the time he took an aging August Busch to the bathroom, stopping to say hello to some acquaintances along the way, only to realize Busch’s manhood had been hanging out the entire time (Preston uses his thumb to illustrate the point).
But back to the beer.
"You want the beer to be a little lower alcohol or do you want it higher?" Cigar City's Justin Clark asks.
"I'd say higher alcohol,” Preston responds. “Wouldn't you?"
“Maybe like a saison?” says brewer Ryan Stick. It’s still early. Right now, they’re on the hunt for a piece of artwork for the label. Showing his artwork, he tells us "they're all music inspired." He loves jazz, especially Miles Davis.
Cigar City plans on doing something around five percent, a lighter beer, something you can drink a couple of without getting completely hammered.
And it’ll be in cans.
“Do you want it in a four-pack or six-pack?” Clark asks.
“Six, of course,” Preston says.
Preston plans on opening a bar inside the jewelry store space, and already has permits and plans on hosting six taps (his two beers will be there of course).
“You should create your own unique tap handles,” Clark encourages.
“Now that’s an idea,” Preston says.
Before we part, he gives everyone comically-over-sized cigars and pink-to-purple color changing “mood cups” that read “Evander’s, the coolest beer on the planet.”
Cigar City hopes to have the beer out by summer. Considering this future brew’s muse and makers (and the fact it’ll come in a cans) odds are it’ll become one of CCB’s future legacy brews. And that’s worth waiting for.